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What will “knowledge” mean in 2050? – VIII

The Lego Mindstorms programming language, NXT, was designed for kids and people with no programming background. It is a matter of joining blocks and their shape tells you if they can fit together or not. Image credit: MIT

8. The “softwarisation of knowledge

Executable knowledge is both something that can be put into action by a person (hence the requirement to be understandable and applicable to the present situation) as well as something that can be executed by a machine. i.e. a piece of software.

There is a significant trend in the software production area that goes under the name of low code-no code. Basically, as the name suggests, it is becoming possible to move from the description of the solution to a problem to the development of that solution in software with very limited programming required (ideally with no programming at all). Clearly, software still needs to be created, assembled and integrated into a working system but the assumption is that there will be “out there” a growing amount of software snippets that like Lego bricks can be assembled (with very limited programming capabilities) into a working system. 

I am making reference to Lego bricks because the first example I saw of this low code – no code was at the MIT in the Lego Lab. The MIT was asked by Lego to develop a new generation of “bricks” that could engage an audience that has become more demanding (kids got used to Nintendo and started to favour them over Lego): the result was LegoRobotics. Kids could develop a variety of robots, using Lego bricks and make them perform a variety of tasks (program them) with a graphic language, that was created in shape of 2 dimensional bricks. Each brick was a piece of software that when assembled with other bricks resulted in a system operating the robot. It turned out that LegoRobotics created a new audience, grown up kids like myself, pretending to teach their sons and having fun at the same time.

This approach is now being used for industrial applications and it will soon permeate many business  and production environment. As software becomes pervasive there is the need to enable people that have very limited, or none, skill in software development to use it.

My bet is that many researchers, in academia and industry, will develop their “knowledge”, i.e. the result of their endeavour, in form of software snippets that could be combined and assembled in many ways to create a functioning system. This executable knowledge chunks will transform the knowledge market by providing a much higher value to users.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.